Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Category Archives: Public Speaking

I have been asked to Chair the Tonkin’s EA/PA Skills Forum 2012

I am honoured. Tonkin have outdone themselves this year by putting together an outstanding programme for the EA/PA Skills Forum. This year’s event includes an amazing line-up of extremely experienced senior EAs and PAs at the top of their game. The sessions on the programme have obviously been carefully thought out and are specifically targeted to meet the needs of EA and PAs looking to enhance their skills set and advance their career to the next level. I’m particularly looking forward to the superb net-working opportunities this event will provide. Hope to see you there!

Butterfly Busters. Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking

My hands were shaking, my knees were quaking, my heart pounding and my throat dry. First date? No. Worse, much worse. How did I get myself into this situation?

Let me take you back. It’s the year 1999 and I am attending college. A late bloomer, but that’s another story! I find myself preparing to give a presentation (for the life of me, I can’t remember what I was presenting on) in front of about 50 – 100 students in the auditorium.

I have a problem, fear has engulfed me. I just wish I would die, right on the spot. Maybe a heart attack? Quick and easy, hopefully relatively painless as I have heard that people can “drop dead” from heart attacks. Yes, that would work. It would certainly get me out of this situation I am in right now. I am ill prepared. Better prepared for the heart attack than for the speech, that’s for sure. I am positive everyone can tell that I am nervous. Certainly my fellow students can tell because we are all standing around back stage murmuring ” I am so nervous, I think I would rather die.”

I have my speech somewhat memorised, although I am now thinking I should have spent more time practicing. What am I saying? I should have spent ANY time practicing. I am so not prepared. Luckily I have the speech typed out in large font so I can just read it. How hard can it be? But then the fear engulfs me again. How did I get myself into this situation? Everyone is going to see my hands shaking as I read my speech. My voice is going to quiver. I don’t look good. I should have worn a dress. Yes, I am thinking of all the negatives and not thinking about my speech at all.

My name is called. F%@K, that was fast. I walk onto the stage, introduce myself ( I think) and start reading my speech hands shaking, knees knocking. Lucky thing I didn’t wear that dress. People would have been able to see my knees. Why the hell didn’t I memorise this speech because the pages are shaking so bad, I can hardly read!

I hurry through thinking the least time on stage, the better! With speech having been delivered (I think), I exit. Stage left, or right or…just exit! I can’t remember how I left the stage or what happened on stage. Did I make it through my speech? I don’t know. I do know, I am never putting myself through this again. I have just been to hell and back and it wasn’t fun!

I never did remember what I said or how I said it on stage and I never put myself in that situation again. But rather than let the fear win, I decided to educate myself ( or rather seek out others who could help) and learn how to speak in public. One of the first things I did was join a Toastmasters Club.

To my shock, I wasn’t the only one who felt this kind of overwhelming fear of public speaking. In fact it’s more the norm. People really do fear death more than they fear speaking in public. When you come right down to it, that’s just ridiculous! I also discovered the audience isn’t there to see you fail, they are there to hear you speak. They are interested in what you have to say. And they care.

I have since realised this after becoming a confident and competent speaker, I have sat through speeches delivered by people who are overwhelmed with fear. And, all I could think of when listening to them struggle is ” I want to help.” I am willing them to get the words out. I want them to succeed. I want them to feel the nervous excitement one feels when they deliver a well prepared speech. It’s exhilarating.

It has taken years and a lot of practice. One does not become a speaker overnight. But with practice, I have learned not to just control my nerves and fear, but use them to enhance my speech with nervous excitement. I have also surrounded myself with supportive people I can practice in front of. I know now that the audience can’t tell how nervous you are and if then can,they are empathetic and want you to succeed.

Some tips I have learned over the years; I practice deep breathing before speaking, this helps to calm nerves as it slows the heart rate down. I move around as much as possible to warm my muscles. More importantly, I practice my speeches and then when I think I have practiced enough, I practice some more. And, I will myself to stay in a positive head space. Public speaking has given me confidence. Not just confidence in myself, but confidence in my message.

I do make mistakes. I have become over confident and found myself in situations where I haven’t practiced enough or I make a mistake in my presentation. It’s okay. I accept imperfection and often the audience doesn’t even notice the mistake. This makes it easier to just “let it go.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am nervous every time I speak. And, that’s okay. My internal voice that once told me, ” I am never putting myself through this again” was a voice that came from fear. But, I have embraced and mastered my fear. I now use my nervous and anxious thoughts and turn them into energy to enhance my speech. I have conquered my fear of public speaking by turning that fear into my friend!

“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death” Harold Wilson

Toastmasters changeover dinner – Dimboola!

Late in June it the time when Toastmaster’s executives think of meeting their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and passing the baton to the new executive.

The Ettalong Beach and Coastal Communicators Toastmasters Clubs held a joint handover dinner at the Avoca Bowling Club.

The theme was the Dimboola country wedding – dreamed up and organised by Ettalong’s Gail Heggie – the result was both hilarious and successful!!! Great job Gail!

Ettalong has had a great year. As outgoing President I want to thank the entire club, especially my excellent executive. We hit all 10 KPIs! Brill!

The Groom (me) was from a family of hillbillys and dressed accordingly. The bride (from Coastal Communicators) was from a posh family and dressed accordingly.

David Tonkin has produced a video image presentation with the Dimboola song – click here

Judy and Al - Hillbillys at Toastmasters.

Judy and Al - Hillbillys at Toastmasters.

By the way – Dimboola is a real place in Victoria, Australia… View Larger Map

Four Days in the Life of…

Four days in the life of Al & Judy… BUSY! Here’s a snapshot of the last four days, you can then judge for yourself whether we live a busy life or what!

Saturday, we have company. They actually arrived Friday night. The morning starts in a typically Aussie way, coffee and in our house, trivia from the Sydney Morning Herald. This mornings trivia is about Australia as Australia day is on Tuesday. Al aced it! Not only is he a trivia buff, he is very knowledgeable about his country.

This lazy morning was followed by a swim on the beach with Stef and Steffani. The water was great. I also had the luxury of sitting in our beach tent while I viewed life through the eyes of seven year old (Steffani). This not only meant playing in the water, but also building a duck pond at waters edge for the gaggle of ducks who kept swimming by. The ducks weren’t impressed with the makeshift pond, but I was. I think the ducks would have much rathered a couple of slices of bread to impress them, but Steffani had other ideas. Her grand plan of the duck pond only managed to attract… Al! What a great Godfather he is.

Saturday night was dinner and entertainment at Lizottes, a local eatery that has good food and great entertainment. This Saturday was a treat for us because Al and Stef’s friends The Robbo’s were playing. Check them out at Al has known them for many years which makes it even nicer to listen to their toe tapping music. We even danced, which is quite a feat since it is a restaurant. Al & I are so shy!

Sunday was a nice relaxing day spent walking on the beach, going to the markets and then a drive to Patonga for coffee on the waterfront, which is silly because it is waterfront everywhere you go on the Peninsula (where we live), but Patonga is “different” waterfront!

Monday morning, company is gone, it’s early and Al and I are golfing at Peats Ridge. The weather was beautiful. When I say the weather was beautiful, it means overcast and warm. Perfect golfing weather for me. We have recently joined a golf “club” which entitles us to inexpensive (a nice way of saying cheap) golfing at many courses, some of which are very near to us. Peats Ridge is only a half hour away and turns out to be a nice challenging course. More challenging perhaps because we haven’t golfed since we were in Vancouver last July. How do you say… rusty?!

We actually didn’t do nearly as bad as I thought we would. In fact for such a challenging course, we did pretty well. There are a lot of water hazards and sand traps, but the biggest hazard of all was the crow on the 17th hole! I was using a fluorescent yellow golf ball. I had just tee’d off with a great hit, when he (the crow) swooped down and stole my ball. I had even hollered at him to drop it, but he wasn’t having any of that. He flew into a tree with his new treasure. I had to drop a pink ball very near (I am sure) where my yellow ball had been and proceeded with another great swing! It was the kind of hit that keeps one playing this silly game. When all of a sudden, the crazy crow was back. I couldn’t imagine he would steal another ball, but that is exactly what he did! He took my pink ball!!! I played the rest of the hole and the last hole with a white ball. I wasn’t taking any more chances.

When we got back to the clubhouse, I mentioned the crow incident to the lady at the desk. “Oh, he’s back” she said. Turns out that he is a fairly regular thief at the course and does take white balls at times. Here I had thought it was only because I was using the coloured balls.

On our way home we stopped at a couple of roadside fruit and veg stands to pick up some yummy local produce. It is all sold on the honour system and if you happen to be out this way, well worth the drive!

Today (Tuesday) is Australia Day. This is the day that Australia comes out to party in a big way. The flags are flying, the beer is out and Australia is celebrating… Australia! The streets are filled with “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi! It should be the national anthem!

We were up early again, this time to ride with a motorcycle club that we have just recently joined, Ulysses. This club is in a nutshell, for old people or nutters who are old, whichever way you want to look at it.  You must be over 40 to be an junior member, and over 50 to be a full member. Al qualifies for full membership, I only qualify because I am his spouse (just had to add that).

This was our first ride with the club and my first ride with any motorcycle club. The ride was great, the people were nice, I look forward to getting to know them better.

I know what you are thinking, another club! We now belong to a business group, Toastmasters (of which Al is president), a golf club and the motorcycle club! In our spare time we kayak, write and snorkel. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

In fact the thought of all these clubs has made me so faint (could be the heat also) that I think it is time to go for a swim before heading out with friends to the Australia Day celebrations and fireworks! And, that is four days in the life of Al & Judy, too much fun! Know of any good clubs to join? We’re in!

Super Sophie!

Quicker than an Oxford debater, she leaps tall(er) speakers with a single bound… Super Sophie!

Two years ago I met Sophie, she was not quite 13 years old. I had the privilege to coach her in public speaking for a competition. She is a pleasure to work with. At a tender age, Sophie is driven, intelligent and creative to a level that astounds me. Her writing is sublime! I was so moved by her prepared speech on the child soldier from Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah.

We put in many hard hours and she produced the goods… she has won the Provincial (British Columbia) and Western Canada speaking and debating competitions. Sophie went on to compete with distinction against others several years older and more experienced. I am proud to say that Sophie has qualified to the World Championships in England in 2009.

Sophie is a powerful speaker at 14. The ability to debate sensibly and master public speaking is essential in many careers. It has stood me in great stead, I wish I had started earlier. I wish I had Sophie’s prodigious talent and drive. Sophie is not perfect, she is still a young girl in many ways. A young girl with some wonderful talent.

Super Sophie has made an astounding achievement by qualifing to the world championships. Any sucess from here is a bonus.

Good luck Sophie!

Martin Luther King had a Dream

How much change can one person experience in their lifetime?
As a young child, I didn’t put much thought into change.  I can remember having  8-track tapes and the change that happened when cassettes came on the scene.  At the time they were amazing.  I was very young when Kennedy was assassinated.   I remember much more vividly the day John Lennon was assassinated because I was much older.
Then came computers.  With computers came DVD and CD’s.  No longer was the cassette tape needed.  Also with computers came a new understanding of the world.  In fact computers or more accurately the internet has opened up the entire world to us.  We now have access to information on any subject we can think of. We also now have access to words and pictures that also show us the hatred, hardship, discrimination and suffering in the world.
Then came Sept 11, 2001.  I remember it well.  I remember where I was when I heard the news.  I remember watching the television with horror.  I remember looking up all the information I could on the internet.  I remember the fear.
Religion, race and fear are most often the catalyst used to promote hatred and discrimination.  Today January 20, 2009 offers the world a new hope for peace amongst all regardless of your race, regardless of your religion, regardless of your culture.  Today is the day that Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.  Today is a day for renewed hope.  Today is the day the fearmongers can go home and leave the world to the people that want change.  Barrack Obama wants change.  Barrack Obama is change.
Can president Obama step up to the plate?  If you were like me and listened to his inauguration speech today (for me it was at 4 a.m.), then yes, I believe that he is the man that will lead the world into the 21st century.  Where we as a world can live together and respect one another regardless of race or religion.  Where we as a world will lend a helping hand to those less fortunate than us.  Where we as a world can start rebuilding  the trust that has been lost since 9/11.  Where we as a world will stop living with the fear that has been conditioned into us for the last 8 years.
In the words of Martin Luther King… I have a dream.  Today I believe that President Obama with the help of the world can help make that dream come true.  I believe that I experienced change today, a global change,  a change that President Obama believes, a renewed hope in the world. I believe  that today I experienced history in the making.
I believe that if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would say “today my dream has come true”.  I believe…